How to Get a Job at McDonald’s… As an In-House Translator

Growing up, I never worked at a fast-food restaurant. When I was a freshman in college, though, I worked the early morning shift at the student cafeteria.

Every morning after work I would head to class and smell like breakfast that morning. Some days it was pancakes, some days sausage.

Most days the smell was pretty terrible.

Let me tell you, it was a blast for me to get sideways glances in class from just about everybody questioning why a smell of scrambled eggs suddenly infiltrated the classroom.

Needless to say, it didn’t do too much for my social life. And I didn’t want to ever work in the food industry again.

Fast forward to my senior year in college, and I was trying to decide between graduate school and a job. And one of the jobs that I applied for was with McDonald’s.

But it wasn’t working the fryer or the front register.

It was for a position as an in-house Spanish translator.

I had no clue that McDonald’s, or places like it, even had translation divisions, let alone hired people to be in-house translators.

Working as an In-House Translator

Guess what, though?

There are plenty of large (and small) corporations out there that don’t believe in outsourcing their language work and would rather keep it in-house.

And there are plenty of translators who would rather take the in-house translation route rather than tying to translate full-time on a freelance basis.

There are lots of reasons for this:

  • the idea of a steady paycheck
  • potentially cheaper access to benefits such as health insurance
  • working with other colleagues face to face
  • enjoying (or suffering through) company picnics and softball games

In fact, roughly half of the emails I get from people interested in becoming translators are more interested in becoming in-house translators than they are in becoming freelance translators.

(There are reasons for this, I’m sure. The biggest? Some people just aren’t cut out to be freelance translators.)

But, hey, that’s OK.

Now, let’s say you want to work in-house as a translator.

First of all, you need to realize that becoming an in-house translator is not as easy as it once was. More and more companies are doing away with the in-house model and looking to translation agencies and/or freelancers to answer their translation needs.

There are still some companies out there, though. You’ll have to do some legwork to find them.

But first, before you even start looking for these companies and organizations, you need to do three things:

1) Have a specialization

Generalist translators are not highly valued.

If you want to be a successful translator, become a specialist.

If you don’t believe me, think of it this way: A specialist can often do a general translation but a generalist would have no freakin’ clue how to do a translation of a specialized subject.

It’s true for freelancers and it’s true for in-house translators.

However, it’s not as true.

Let’s go back to McDonald’s.

I don’t remember what was in the job description for that McDonald’s translator position; however, I recently came across an announcement for a French/English in-house position at the McDonald’s Linguistic Services division in Canada. Here were the requirements:

  • Specialized bachelor’s degree in translation or equivalent
  • Minimum of 5 years of experience
  • Fluently bilingual (English/French), both written and oral
  • Capacity to work in a team
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent organizational skills and capacity to prioritize work
  • Capacity to meet tight deadlines and manage several projects at the same time
  • Knowledge of translation memory software would be an asset
  • McDonald’s restaurant experience would be an asset

There are no requirements outlining the need for specialized knowledge or an area of translation expertise.

You just need to be a professional.

Other companies will have those requirements, though. Like I said, it’s better to be a specialist doing generalist work, rather than the other way around.

2) Consider global translation agencies

Instead of going with a company that manufactures widgets, or burgers and fries in this case, think about becoming an in-house translator at a translation agency. The McDonald’s of the world aren’t the only companies that need in-house translators.

There are plenty of linguistic/translation agencies throughout the world that hire translators on a full-time basis.

For example, one of the largest language companies is Lionbridge. A quick search on the website showed multiple translator positions as well as positions for computational linguists and associate linguists.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but there are translation agencies and language companies that employ a stable of translators and language professionals that work for them full-time in an in-house capacity.

A position like this probably won’t be strictly translating, so you’ll have to enjoy the management aspects as well.

3) Gain Experience

Let’s take a minute and go back to the McDonald’s ad.

Out of the nine requirements, what are the first two?

First, a specialized degree in translation, which basically amounts to a formal way that McDonald’s can verify translation experience.

Second, a minimum of five years of actual translation experience.

From an initial glance, five years of experience might seem like a lot, especially for a translator just starting out in the translation profession. But really, is not that much once you get started.

If you’ll notice the ad, it doesn’t specify the type of translation experience required. If you’ve been translating as part of your current non-translator job, for example, that experience would count. If you’ve been translating part-time for free for nonprofit organizations, that would also count.

The most important thing businesses look for in translators to hire on a full-time basis is the ability to translate. The easiest way for the hiring manager to get a quick idea of a translator’s aptitude is to look at the experience.

In addition, a translator that has worked in the industry for at least five years should have some knowledge of what it means to be a professional translator. A company hiring for an in-house position wants to work with a translator that not only know the language side of translation but also the side about being and acting like a professional.

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